Monthly Archives: January 2014

Voice in Writing

If you have read my previous posts, you know I am taking part in sunvssnow. I have worked my ass off for the last week trying to get my submission to be stellar and not just good. With the help of all the amazing feedback I got, I think I was able to achieve that. Granted it was a lot of hard work and definitely made me think critically about my writing. I had to condense, show, explain, reconsider age group, and ultimately, I rewrote the entire beginning to my novel. But in the end, it was absolutely worth it. In this post however, I wanted to talk about something that I had quite a few positive comments on (YAY).

Voice is something that is definitely hard to achieve in writing and it is even harder to teach. Trust me, I have tried with my English students.

One of the best ways to achieve voice is to know your character implicitly, especially the way they think and speak. Every person has specific catch phrases, ways of saying things, and mannerisms when we they speak. These make our characters who they are just as much as they make us who we are. It is something that makes characters relatable. When those characters are on print, the writer needs to use the way the characters says things coupled with those words, to give the reader a picture of who they are. Standout characters literally have a voice.

Infusing voice also means knowing your age range. I work with middle school students, ages twelve to fourteen, on a daily basis. I know how they speak and the newest phrases in teen lingo. I also know what they are talking about, what is important to them, and how they relate to both peers and adults. These are crucial. Again, it all comes back to being able to relate to the characters and believe they are real. If you can’t picture the characters and draw from them, your plot is useless. These are what give your character voice.

I personally like to pretend that my character is actually having a conversation in my head. How are they saying that line? What words are they using? What tone would they use? How would they deliver it? These key questions will also give your characters some humor and enable you to write clever dialogue or thoughts for your character that fit him/her.

It all comes down to knowing their personality and being able to deliver it with authenticity.

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Taking Critism And What To Do With It

I am lucky enough to have gotten into #sunvssnow. We put up our query letter and our first 250 words. Then the magic happens. Writers critique the crap out of your work and then you fix it!

Alright. As unexciting as that all sounds, it really is magical I promise. But I will admit that when I found out that up to thirteen people would be critiquing my work, I was both nervous about their comments and what I would do with them. What do you take to heart and what do you ignore? So many opinions, but who has the right one? Here is what I have learned.

1) Look for the trends. What are the readers saying that is similar? I found that even though the readers could see each others’ comments, there were lots of commonalities. They agreed with each other on many issues I needed to fix. The consensus definitely helped me make a decision.

2) Choose what is most important. There were suggestions that I thought would absolutely help the story that I was trying to show (not tell). That was one piece of feedback; I was telling too much and not showing enough. Jump right into the action. That was important to me. I definitely didn’t want to bore my reader on the first page. I knew that was something I had to rework.

3) Remember everything is subjective. The people reading your work are just that, people. They have opinions on what they do and don’t like. If one person gives feedback that you don’t deem as important and necessary, throw it out. That’s okay. They won’t be crushed because you made an artistic decision. It just means you actually made a decision.

4) First thing’s first. If you are on a time crunch, choose the edits that are going to get you the most results in the time you have. Obviously, changing the perspective from first to third in four days is going to be a stretch. But look at what is doable and what will help you out the most. Then continue edits later as needed.

5) Be open minded. You cannot go into getting critiqued already on the defensive. If your work is perfect, why did you offer it up to those who could potentially shred it? Why are you not already represented and on published shelves? Take this opportunity to learn and grow as a writer. The authors have had amazing feedback for me and I am really grateful they took their time to help me.


Shoutout to all the amazing women who read my work and were kind enough to leave extensive comments. Your generosity is truly appreciated.

Jessika Fleck

Lanette Kauten

AJ Pine

Megan Erickson

Amy Reichert

Katie French

Liz Fichera


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The Doldrums: Sitting and Waiting

Although I try to keep myself busy, there are those moments when you sit and stare at your computer hoping for someone to send you an e-mail, even if it is a rejection. Since I sent out my queries in batches and I am working on another contest (go team Sun #sunvssnow), now I must wait.


I know what you are going to say: “Start another project.” Oh, I have. But no matter how much I try to ignore the fact that I am patiently waiting for responses, they haunt me. Clocks melt around me like in the Dali painting. Every time I get an e-mail alert on my phone, I jump. It’s kind of obnoxious actually. I know my husband finds it super annoying. But I can’t help it.

I may be a little overly confident, but I have always believed that if you work hard enough, anything is possible. Trust me, I have been working VERY HARD. The MG novel I am querying now got three full edits before I started submitting. I have done my homework on agents and have submitted to those that I am truly passionate about. I am reading books on voice and edits/revisions. I have begun a new and very different NA novel that I am also super excited about, even in its infancy.

Let me be honest. I have received MANY rejection letters from agents who I respect highly and truly value their opinion. But I know it only takes one. Every agent on the planet doesn’t need to fight over my work. I don’t need eighteen offers of representation because in the end I only need one agent. Like in my last post, it will take time for me to find the writing husband/wife of my dreams, but I am confident they are out there.

Unfortunately, that means I need to sit in the doldrums and wait. Ugh!

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Why Finding an Agent or Publisher is Like Dating: A Scary Analogy

Finding an agent or publisher is a lot like dating. I am so glad I am married because I could not enter the dating scene again. The crappy part is, I am kind of doing it all over again to find an agent. The similarities are ridiculous.

1) You will meet lots before you meet the right one. It’s like going to a college party or bar and trying to pick someone up. You have to get all dressed up sometimes three or four times (editing and editing and editing) and even then you don’t always attract his attention! Grrrr.

2) You find someone, but they are definitely not what you want. You go on a date with one or two guys (agents or publishers) but just because they like you doesn’t mean they are marriage material. Start over.

3) Sometimes it is me and not you. When you just can’t get your crap together and they won’t come near you. It is time for a little self-reflection (cough cough more editing). Perhaps a little feedback from an honest and trusted friend is also called for.

4) The dream guy comes along and rejects you worse than Patrick Ewing under the hoop (do your basketball homework if you didn’t get it). You sit in your room for three days and eat chocolate without showering. Yeah it happens.

5) There are occasions where you just try way too hard and you scare the crap out of them. They run like hell. Again eat chocolate and hide for a few days.

6) Maybe someone shows interest, you give ’em the goods (partial or full ms) and you wake up the next morning alone and cold. The number they gave you doesn’t work and you never hear from them again. This time, alcohol AND chocolate are called for.

7) You wait and wait and wait and eventually you get quality you want to hold on to. You argue and fight, but always make up. Finally, you make it forever (hopefully).

After a while you must make a decision, do you want to go it alone (self-publish) or find your husband (agent) or settle (never a good idea in either scenario). I never thought I would be in the dating scene again. Here I am.


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Finding Your Agent or Writing Wife/Husband

You have written a manuscript! Wahooo! You have edited the crap out of it, literally! Double Wahooo! Now you think you are ready to start querying. So you find every agent under the sun and send them a uniform query letter with every one of them CC’ed. NOOOOOO! Wrong! Stop!

I made a few rookie mistakes (never CC’ed all the agents though) and I am no expert considering I am still looking for my perfect agent. But here are a few things I have learned along the way that may help the novices out there.

1. Research For A Very Long Time: Unfortunately this is not a “look them up on their agencies website and then send them a query letter” kind of thing. Finding an agent is a lot like finding a boyfriend/husband/girlfriend/wife. It has to be a perfect fit. You are entering into a partnership with someone you will be working with for, ideally, a very long time. Don’t rush it. Start with a site like and find some people who rep your genre. Then use the agency website. Then use their website. Then stalk them on Twitter (politely of course). I have learned so much about agents from their Twitter feeds. They give tons of information away about what they are looking for and even things about them personally that you may connect with. They may even interact with you and you can see how they interact with others. What is their professional style? Do they have cats? Ugh, I hate cats! *Crosses agent off list*. Many will also post where they are as far as their slush piles and will give you hints on queries with #tenqueries. Soak it all up. THIS TAKES TIME! Don’t rush it!

2. Create an “Ideal Agent List”: After researching, I found a handful who I think I would marry if I could. These are people who I totally mesh with, have similar styles personally, and they rep my genre! These are the agents who you would be friends with if you met them on the street. Consider this list your perfect storm! The cosmos aligning! Query these amazing people!

3. Personalize Your Query: Agents receive hundreds to thousands of queries a year, some even in a month. If you CC them on a generic e-mail that starts with “Dear Agent” and pitches your book like a penis enlargement spam e-mail, you have wasted your time and theirs. There is no way you are getting noticed. Take that “Ideal Agent List” and personalize your query. Tell them in two sentences max why you think the two of you are soul mates of the writing world. This shows them all the hard work you have done and can help them connect to you. It hooks them and shows them you care BECAUSE YOU DO AND YOU SHOULD!

!!!!!Caution!!!! I will warn you that when you get rejected from these agents, it does hurt, a lot more than if you queried just anyone. BUT IT IS WORTH IT!  You value your art and your agent should too. Like I said before, you are entering an artistic partnership and you want someone who cares as much about your work as you do.

4. Send the Queries in Batches: I typically query no more than ten agents at a time now. First, it takes time to do all that research, tweak query letters, reexamine my manuscript and then send it out. These are the ideal agents not just any agent. I don’t want everyone under the sun to have my manuscript because it deserves better than that. Make sure the people who are looking at it are who you really want repping you. It is your name on the line too. It is also a lot easier to keep track of who is who if you query fewer at a time. That way if someone actually requests material (YESSSSSS!!!), you know exactly who they are and what they want.

5. Hope, Pray and Do Other Things: If your stuff is good, it is only a matter of time. Your agent is looking for you and your manuscript just like you are looking for them. Be patient. If you are like me though, (ADHD) patience isn’t exactly easy to come by. So what do I do in the meantime? I enter contests and lots of them. There are pitch contests, query contests and even critique contests. I got my entire query letter tweaked by an editor because I Tweeted the name of my favorite character to her and she chose me! Her feedback was phenomenal. Thanks Mandy Schoen ( Or, you could do something crazy, like start a new manuscript. This is a process. It will take a while. UGH!

6. Get Rejected and Smile: You will get rejected by some really great people, especially if you are querying the right way. It’s okay. That agent was not the right one for you. If you are going to be a writer, you need to learn perseverance. Start the process all over again.


One last note. When I query agents, I consider it a compliment. Not because I think that highly of myself or my work, but because I have confidence in my work and abilities. I want someone who believes in me the way I believe in them. I want someone who is going to work just as hard for me as I will for them. I hand selected agents who I admire and respect to submit to. I worked hard and value their opinions. That is why I consider it a compliment. Find your perfect writing partner. Respect yourself and your work enough to do the same.

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